I sort of understand the appeal of places like Puerto Vallarta or Cancun. You can fly straight there from Canada and the US, maybe you found a travel deal with an all-inclusive hotel and you don’t want to use any mental energy because you have two weeks holiday and you’re fucking tired.
About eight years ago, I was suffering from serious university burnout, got an email for a travel deal to Cancun and impulsively booked a vacation for me and my boyfriend at the time. I just needed to be far from the snowstorm I was in, and didn’t have the mental space to do any research. My boyfriend had never even been on a plane before and was the stereotypical Quebecois of ten years ago who didn’t want to travel because he sincerely believed that “Quebec has the best of everything” and only spoke French. When we got there, to be surrounded by loud spring-breaking Americans blasting top-40 music, overpriced stores, and literally no ambiance whatsoever, in a hotel that watered down its alcohol and served awful food, I realized I kinda fucked up and was deeply concerned my boyfriend would take this as proof that travelling is a pointless exercise in proving that Quebec has the best of everything.
Next time you need some sunshine but are too tired to plan, read this blog post and go to Mazunte instead. Trust me on this.
On the taxi ride to Mazunte from Puerto Angel (150 pesos), we drove through San Agustinillo. The main street was small, but lined with cafes and cool-looking stores. After the boredom that was Puerto Angel, I almost wanted to yell “Stop the car!”
“What’s cooler, this place or Mazunte?” El Chango asked the driver.
“Mazunte,” the driver said matter-of-factly. And I’m glad we continued.
How to Get There
If you haven’t made the mistake of going to Puerto Angel first, you can fly in to Huatulco or Puerto Escondido. You will probably have to fly into a big international airport first and then take a domestic flight (I use https://www.despegar.com.ar/vuelos/ for domestic flights). Then take a collectivo (bus) or taxi. If you exit the airport and ask around for a collectivo, it will be a fraction of the price of anything leaving the airport directly.
Here’s some info I stole from here http://wikitravel.org/en/Mazunte:
By plane: To Huatulco or Puerto Escondido (take the taxi to Mazunte outside the airport gate to save 75%). By bus: Go to south bus station Tasqueña, take either a route to Oaxaca City-Pochutla-Mazunte (not connected), which is 10 hours total, or a direct route to Pochutla (14 hours, Estrella Blanca buses). The latter is a coast route that goes through the Guerrero state (passing by Acapulco) then makes a stop in Puerto Escondido, and finally arrives in Pochutla.
The first ting we did on arrival was buy some cold pizza slices at La Baguette across the street form our apartment. It was so good, that El Chango felt like the pizza was a symbol of great things to come and he was right.
Clues that Mazunte might be a weird hallucination I had on acid and not a real place:
1) It’s THAT cool and yet I’d never heard of it before
2) There’s vegetarian food in almost every restaurant (maybe you don’t care, but I care)
3) It’s on the beach but not expensive
4) Everyone is beautiful and half naked. Have I wandered into a movie set?
5) The town’s one bakery has the best baked goods I have ever tasted, and I’m saying that as someone who has lived in four different French cities
If it weren’t for the shitty internet situation, it would be perfect. Are you on holiday and not giving a shit about the internet? Or are you a person who braids bracelets or teaches yoga for a living? Ok, then you’re good. For workaholics like me who need the internet, you can make it work with a little effort.
Mazunte is full of hippies like San José, but these are not the same hippies. While San José’s hippies look like they crawled out from under a rock in the forest, Mazunte’s hippies are fresh from the ocean, in shape from all the surfing and swimming. Everyone is tanned and topless and smiling, and just seeing the way they saunter down the street glowing will make you throw all your life choices into question. Why am I not living like them? you’ll wonder.
Mazunte is basically three-ish main streets, one running parallel to the water, and two connecting it to the beach. There’s also a sort of road leading up the hills to more hotels and Punta Cometa. You can see the whole town in about ten minutes.
I really recommend AirBnb over finding accommodation through other websites, as most places with websites, as I mentioned in another post, charge more, at $60-$100 USD a night, but there are Airbnb options starting at $18 USD. Just don’t forget to select “Internet” in the filters if you aren’t looking to unplug for your whole stay. Also, a lot of the fancy places brag about being open air, but if you seem to attract every mosquito in town like me, I wouldn’t really see this as a bonus in a place like Mazunte.
If you don’t wanna do AirBnb, I recommend this link again for ideas: http://wikitravel.org/en/Mazunte
Also, I walked by Posada del Arquitecto every day. It’s expensive for a hostel but right on the beach and probably a good place to meet people if you aren’t as averse to people as me. There’s also yoga, massage, and wifi.
We were staying in an AirBnb apartment above a traditional dulce store on the street by the beach. It was perfect, that is, until I realized it had no wifi with which to finish my work.
Other than the internet, the only only problem with the apartment was a giant rat stealing our loaf of bread, but that’s what happens when you leave the balcony door open, so our bad.
After much trial and error, I found the internet goldmine: La Estrella Fugaz
La Estrella Fugaz is a restaurant and the only place I found with reliable internet that comes free with any purchase. There’s only one outlet though and you’re probably not supposed to use it. But I did.
I also discovered two awesome restaurants and possibly the world’s best bakery.
1) Los Travesios. Here I got a vegetarian ceviche. I know, right?
2) Sahuaro. This place has awesome food, a really cool ambiance in their yard, and kombucha, which is kinda novel.
Their seating area is a cozy, dimly lit garden thing where we ate super rico yakimeshi and tried to guess the languages of the people in the tables around us.
There’s also this really good juice bar (called “Juice Bar”?) that even makes some of the best kombucha I’ve ever had for about 20-30 pesos a glass. A sweet old dog works there, I think.
La Croissant: The best baked goods in the world
Mexican baked goods are usually super dry and powdery. It’s intentional of course, but to my unrefined gringo palate it usually tastes like stale bread with sugar sprinkled on it. NOT the case at Le Croissant. They have great cheap pizza and the most delicious soft pastries.
I just wanted to say this restaurant fucking sucks!
Of course I’m going to elaborate; making fun of things is way easier than praising them. El Chango and I went there for sandwiches. In the meantime I had to check my email for work with my phone. I asked for the wifi password.
“manzanaroja” the server tells me. I type it in. It doesn’t work.
“All lower case?”
“It’s not working.”
“Yeah, I dunno then.”
Another person comes up and asks the server to enter the password. She does. It connects.
“Can’t help you,” she says to me.
Ok then. Then the sandwiches took almost an hour and a half. No one else was ordering at the time. El Chango went to check in the kitchen and the employees were hanging out and chatting.
Then when I tried to pay, I gave the server 500 pesos and she left with it and never came back. Another employee found my change later in a bowl at the bar. I think this was the first time I left no tip, whatsoever. Two hours later, I was hangry, still hadn’t checked my email, and resolved to write something unkind about them on the internet. Despite the restaurant’s name, eating at Siddartha is basically the opposite of a spiritual journey, where you come out a worse person.
The town has a lot of cool stores with handmade jewellery and clothing, and a sort of market that pops up by the beach, but a lot of the prices are much more expensive, especially when the crafts are made by foreigners.
Mazunte is famously home to the Mexican National Turtle Centre. We got to Mazunte Sunday and were tired, then found out that the turtle centre is closed Mondays and Tuesday, and then we were leaving. So I cannot tell you about the turtle centre, sorry. This is what happens when I try to be spontaneous. I decided I wanted to see the building, just to feel like I did what I could and for an excuse to wander around. We walked up the main street to the large institutional building and stared at the gate.
“Hey man,” a guy said to El Chango from where he stood on the side of the road on his moped.
“Wanna see some turtles?” His voice suggested had it been warm enough for a trench coat, he would have opened it to reveal turtles strapped to the inside. Not feeling very generous, I wandered off and left El Chango to deal with whatever was happening, especially since, as usual, the man was addressing the other man.
“I can take you to see some turtles,” he said in a low voice. “You can free one. We’ll give you a turtle. To free.” He looked up and down the street furtively.
“Um… No thanks?”
The man looked around, then roared off on his scooter.
We wandered back to the centre of town, passing a cool homemade soda store. Turns out it was only open weekends. Apparently you should be in Mazunte on the weekend.
One morning I was buying a smoothie I didn’t want so I could use the internet at the restaurant next to our AirBnb. A Mexican man was sitting next to a middle-aged American couple at the next table. I opened my laptop, hoping no one would say anything. I don’t know why, but whenever I’m working in a cafe in Mexico, at least one guy always has to yell “Hey, you’re on holiday, put the computer away!” or some shit. He changes forms but always says the same thing. I’ll say I’m working, and he’ll say What! Working here?? and then will start ranting about society to me. There’s no way to say “I’m not on holiday, this is my life,” without inviting a bunch of questions about my life. So I say nothing.
“Hey, what are you doing?” The Mexican asked me.
“Using the internet,” I said.
“You know who you look like?” he asked.
“No,” I said, with no curiosity, not looking up.
“Yelena Isinbayeva. The Russia runner. Are you a runner?”
“Not anymore.” Dammit, accidental share.
He asked me where I was from. The fucking internet wouldn’t connect. Come on, internet. Save me from this.
I told him Canada.
“You sound super American for a Canadian,” he said, as if scolding me. “Do you even speak Spanish?”
I switched to Spanish. “Yeah I do. I don’t even sound American, who are you to judge English accents?”
“How do you speak Spanish?”
“So you like really ugly guys?”
When guys try to insult me to start a conversation (WHY is that a thing?), I just retreat into a dark Wednesday-Addams-esque place of imaginary vengeance inside myself and stop talking. I wanted to leave but now I’d ordered an overpriced smoothie. The internet didn’t work either. So many reasons to find a new restaurant.
“Wanna come on a boat tour with us later? Invite your boyfriend,” annoying guy asked.
“We’re busy.” Forever.
“There are going to be whales, and snorkleing and all the beer and marijuana you want. Just us with drinks and drugs out in the middle of the ocean.”
Thanks for the official invitation to my nightmare.
“Yeah I don’t think so.”
“Ask your boyfriend! Where is he anyway?”
“Doing some laundry.”
The men laughed. “Did you hear that, she’s got the man doing the laundry! HAHAHA, right on, girl!! Got the man doing laundry!”
El Chango was literally washing a few of his own shirts but didn’t want to defend the idea of a man doing laundry. I tried to turn the conversation to the retired Americans. They had recently discovered Mexico and marijuana and awkwardly passed a joint between themselves, fumbling with it as they tried to smoke. They seemed nice enough, but were not annoyed by the Mexican guy, which made them a little suspicious. I hovered by the restaurant kitchen, grabbed my smoothie and left.
The next day on the beach, El Chango and I were sitting together when Mexican boat door guy was walking by. “Oh god, don’t look now,” I said, accidentally in English,out of panic.
“Mande?” El Chango asked.
“Oh hey there!” Boat tour guy called.
“Mierda,” I said.
“Is that the annoying guy you told me about? He looks like a Mexican Charlie Sheen.”
He did. Mexican Charlie Sheen squatted down by us.
“So you’re the guy. I met your wife in the cafe,” he said. “I was telling her she looks like Yelena Isinbayeva.”
“I don’t really see it.”
“Yelena Isinbayeva has black hair.”
Mexican Charlie Sheen thought about it and nodded in agreement. He then told El Chango about all the whales we could see if we agreed to be trapped on a boat with him. “If you don’t tell the others how much I’m charging you, I’ll take you for 200 pesos,” he said, which is still more than the tours usually cost, according to the internet.
“We’re busy,” said El Chango.
“What about tomorrow? We can go tomorrow.”
“Yeah, we have plans already.”
“What are your plans?”
“Ok, we don’t.”
After more back and forth, Mexican Charlie Sheen gave up and wandered away.
This place just up from the beach makes its own super good ice cream (and even has vegan options! I know!).
The beach is great. The water is calm, there is a steady incline into the deeper waters. There is an unwritten rule that almost everyone goes topless. A couple of palapa stalls sell beer in the shade.
Everyone said we had to see the view from Punta Cometa. Usually I’m a bit disappointed with lookout points because practically every location on Earth has some sort of purportedly important viewpoint looking over something and they can’t all be good. To get to Punto Cometa, we walked up a steep side street I hadn’t noticed before, passing a number of hotels and guesthouses. We followed the signs upwards through the trees and properties, passing by a graveyard before entering a thicket of spindly trees that finally gave way to a dusty peninsula covered in greenery.
The the other side of the peninsula from the town was a secluded beach, which we’ll check out when we go back.
A line of people was already sitting along the cliff. The sunset was fucking unreal, changing the unobstructed view of the clouds, ocean, and horizon to tones of pink and orange. Hippies passed joints and sold handmade snacks and pizza. El Chango and I kept exchanged looks of Is this place real? as the colours changed and the sun turned deep red before disappearing below the horizon.
We left at dusk, seeing some police approach (looking for drugs?), around one side of the peninsula as we left by the other.
At nightfall passed by the cemetery. In the quiet, people were setting flowers , candles and paper decorations on the graves, each grave glowing with the colours of their decorations and framed by the black silhouettes of the surrounding trees. We returned down to the two main streets to wander around. Mazunte is an ideal place to walk at night, the air is perfect holiday temperature where you don’t get sweaty but also don’t need a sweater and each restaurant glows under its own lights beneath a dark sky unpolluted by city lights.
Liveability ratings (out of 5)
Cultural life: 4
Air quality: 4
(But beware of the safety of your belongings in open-air accommodations)
Reliable internet: 0.5
Accessibility from foreign locations: 3
PS, apparently Mazunte has a great yoga scene but doing yoga always makes me wanna punch someone (what’s wrong with me?) so I can’t tell you more about it.
Next stop, Puerto Escondido.